South Fork American River: Chili Bar
Best Beginner / Intermediate Rafting in Northern CA
Scenic Canyon Through Historic California Gold Country
Everyone Paddles And Should Be In Good Physical Shape
Lots of Swimming Opportunities
No Experience Necessary
Delicious Lunch Included
On this page:
About the Trip Full Day Class 2-3 Excitement
This is the perfect rafting adventure for everyone to enjoy! The South Fork American River Chili Bar Run is the nearest rafting to South Lake Tahoe, Sacramento, and the SF Bay Area. With splashy rapids around each river bend, your group will enjoy scenic golden canyons through the historic California Gold Country. We love this section because its Class II and Class III rapids provide excitement for both first time rafters and experienced boaters alike. Our favorite rapids are the Class III Meat Grinder, Triple Threat, and Trouble Maker all of which guarantee a smile and splash packed adrenaline rush.
After booking, check your confirmation email which has comprehensive trip information.
- We will see you at our Chili Bar Meeting Location 10:00 AM at 2978 Mosquito Rd, Placerville, CA, 95667
- Park, check in, fill out any outstanding waivers, use the restroom, etc. Leave valuables at home and and personal items in your vehicles. Car keys can be left with our office staff or in your seat on our shuttle bus while you’re on the river.
- Hop on our Tahoe Whitewater Shuttle Bus for a 10 minute drive to the river.
- Gear Up & Safety Talk! You’ll be issued a Personal Flotation Device, Paddle, and Helmet. Everyone will participate in our Safety Talk to discuss river hazards and safety protocols.
- Meet your guide! Your guide will chat about paddling and give instructions as you hop in your raft and start the tour.
- Enjoy the river! You'll be on the river for about 4 hours. We provide a gourmet, riverside lunch near the historic gold discovery site in Coloma, CA.
- We'll shuttle you back to the meeting / parking location.
This is the perfect beginner - intermediate trip. Ages 7+ and previous rafting experience is not necessary. Rafting is a team effort: everyone will participate and is expected to paddle.
Do I need to know how to swim?
It is recommended but not mandatory. We provide a helmet and a Type V, US Coast Guard approved personal flotation device, designed to float you on your back, high in the water.
What do I need to wear?
We have packing lists for you to review for each of our different trips. It can be significantly colder during March-May so we encourage our guests to always be prepared.
It’s my first time rafting, do I need experience?
We encourage previous experience for our more difficult, Class IV Whitewater Rafting Trips. Feel free to call us with any concerns or questions about appropriate trips for your group.
Monday - Friday @ 9:00 AM
Some Weekend Dates
April 20 - September, flow depending
- Helmet, Paddle, Personal Flotation Device (aka PFD or lifejacket)
- Professional River Guide in each raft
- Gourmet, riverside lunch
- Shuttle to and from our meeting/parking location
Our guides are the best in the business, prioritizing safety and guest experience. They love what they do and it shows through their passion for the area's history, geology and ecology. With experience on rivers around the globe, we know you'll enjoy your guide as much as we do.
Tahoe Whitewater's owner, Mike Miltner, pioneered commercial whitewater rafting on the Truckee River in the 1980's and 90's when government ordinances prohibited whitewater rafting on the Truckee. Mike fell in love with the Truckee River and began battling local, state, and federal opposition. Successful in his mission to share the Truckee, Mike paved the way for people to experience the beauty and adventure the Truckee River has to offer. And over 30 years now, Tahoe Whitewater has been sharing our love, experience, and knowledge of the area with guests.
No matter your group size, we will break you up into the appropriate number of boats after the safety talk. On the South Fork of the American River our rafts can take up to 6-8 guests + a guide.
We use 13', 14', and 16' rafts.
We meet at a public parking lot directly off of Exit 47 on Highway 50 in Placerville, CA.
You’ll leave your vehicles for the day and hop into our Tahoe Whitewater shuttle bus with Yellow River Rafts on the roof. This location has public restrooms to use prior to a short drive down to the river. We’ve never had an issue in the parking lots, but we recommend leaving valuables at home. You may leave small personal items in your seat in our shuttle bus for the duration of your rafting tour. After booking, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a “Trip Details” PDF attachment with all important info, packing lists, etc.
Meet at 10:00 AM at 2978 Mosquito Rd, Placerville, CA, 95667
0 Put-In: Chili Bar River Access. Fees charged.
0.6 Meatgrinder Class III+
1.3 Racehorse Bend Class III
1.5 Maya Class II-III.
2.0 African Queen Rapid. Class II.
3.1 Triple Threat Rapid Class III.
Miner's Creek. on river right. is a recommended lunch stop with rest room facilities.
4.4 Indian Creek enters on river left. Beginning of Quiet zone.
5.2 Troublemaker Rapid. Class III+.
5.2 American River Resort River Access and Campground. Fees charged.
5.5 Coloma Resort River Access and Campground. Fees charged.
5.6 Coloma Bridge. built in 1917.
5.7 Sutter's's Mill site.
6.0 Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park - North Beach River Access Area. Fees charged. Picnic and rest room facilities. Take-outs are prohibited.
7.1 Old Scary Class II.
7.4 Highway 49 Bridge River Access.
What to Expect From Booking to Rafting the South Fork American Chili Bar Run
After Making a Reservation
After your booking is complete, a confirmation email will be sent including a summary of your group size, date, river section, meeting time and location.
Online Waivers will be provided in your confirmation email. ALL participants must fill out waivers prior to the trip. Please fill these out before arriving.
A “Trip Details” PDF will be attached to your confirmation email containing:
- driving directions
- pack list
- other helpful info
On the River
This Beginner/ Intermediate whitewater river rafting trip is suitable for anyone looking for a fun day as action awaits on this historical trip through one of California’s most popular waterways! Beginning just outside of the town of Placerville, this run offers 12 miles of whitewater excitement. Travel through the golden foot hills of the Western Sierra Nevada mountains as warm sun rays envelope your senses. Splashes of cool mountain water invigorate and awaken as you float through one of California’s most historical areas. In 1848 the South Fork of the American River changed the world when gold was first discovered in the stream bed. The California Gold Rush was born creating the largest human migration for a single purpose since the crusades. Today folks are still attracted to the region, not for its gold but for its whitewater. This trip starts off with one of the biggest rapids, “Meat Grinder” in an exciting introduction. Fun filled class II’s and III’s continue throughout the day with something new around each bend. Halfway down our guides prepare a rejuvenating lunch allowing time to relax and sun bath on shore as the sound of the river fills the canyon. Rapids continue after lunch leading to an exciting Class III drop, “Trouble Maker” near the end of your trip. Here your guides will entertain you with stories as the boats float by the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. Join us on an extraordinary adventure for all on our South Fork American- Chili Bar run. With beautiful foothill scenery, fun splashy rapids, all in an area rich in history, this river is the perfect escape on a hot summer day.
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